"They are fierce indeed these Kroot, and savage. I look upon them and tremble at their ferocity. I can only hope that when the enemy sees them they tremble as I do."
The Kroot (Krootis aviana), also designated by the Imperium as Kroot Carnivore, are a xenos species of savage humanoids who are members of the T'au Empire. The Kroot evolved from avian creatures on their homeworld of Pech.
Kroot are tall (a good half-metre taller than most Humans), their avian ancestry giving them a bird-like beak and long quills protruding from their heads like hair.
Smaller quills, possibly the evolutionary remnants of feathers, can be found scattered over their bodies.
A unique feature of the Kroot is that they evolve by selecting genetic traits of their defeated foes to absorb by eating them. Due to this, the many Kroot warbands across the galaxy often look radically different.
Kroot leaders are known as Shapers; they are generally the Kroot with the best ability for recognizing desirable traits in defeated foes and tell their kindred (the word for a Kroot clan) what to eat to reshape themselves to suit the task at hand.
For instance, a Shaper who wants his Kroot to gain muscle mass will take on campaigns against Orks to acquire the right DNA, while extensive feeding on flying predators will allow the Kroot to grow wings.
This eating of their foes ties in with the religious beliefs of the Kroot: they believe that when a warrior of any race dies, his warrior spirit should be kept, and the only way to do this is by eating his flesh. The Kroot practice this in their "burial" customs, in which the body of the deceased is consumed by the kindred.
Kroot who prey extensively on a particular species will begin to take the characteristics of that creature. In sentient species such as Orks and Humans, they may also take on cultural aspects of that people as well. Kroot who have fed on Drukhari, for example, soon begin to show signs of the cunning and intense cruelty the Drukhari are known for.
In the case of animals, this sometimes leads to evolutionary dead ends. A kindred will find itself locked into an animalistic and unintelligent form, unable to evolve themselves any more. Species such as Tyranids who also absorb the DNA of their prey are particularly dangerous for Kroot to prey upon, as they may acquire too many undesirable Tyranid characteristics.
The ecology of the Kroot homeworld of Pech includes many species of animal that are partially Kroot, the results of a kindred's evolutionary missteps. The Kroot use these related creatures as laborers, pack animals, and even as weapons. The most common examples are the canine Kroot Hounds, the lumbering and powerful ape-like Krootox, the dromaeosaurid Knarloc riding beast, and the massive, dinosaur-like Great Knarlocs.
Another creature of note is the Kroothawk, an animal held sacred by the Kroot, possibly because it may be their evolutionary ancestor. There are other Kroot sub-species that are considered outcasts in Kroot society and are killed by Kroot if found.
In order to gather genetic material from all over the galaxy, the Kroot offer themselves as mercenaries, and sell their services to anyone willing to pay them. They travel the galaxy taking limited contracts from both major and minor intelligent starfaring species, and are regularly employed by the T'au.
While the contract with the T'au is supposed to be an exclusive one, the Kroot regularly send out their warspheres to continue their mercenary trade amongst the wider cosmos.
Anatomy and Physiology
The Kroot originated on the world of Pech and, though their anatomy is humanoid, there is evidence to suggest that the roots of their evolution likely lie with that world's avian analogues. Kroot retain vestigial beaks and have a light, almost hollow bone structure, with four digits on each hand and foot.
Kroot skin is rough with small, barbed spines, similar to the elongated quills on their heads, protruding from various locations on their flesh. Skin pigmentation ranges from earthy brown colours and dappled greens to vibrant oranges and everything in between. Depending on the feeding directions of the Kroot Shapers, the colouration of each kindred can vary quite considerably.
It is also common for Kroot from each kindred to have particular tribal markings painted onto their skin. Kroot mature quickly, with their most rapid period of growth occurring in the first ten years of their lives.
By the age of twelve Terran years they are considered adults and it is not unknown for Kroot to live to over a hundred years old, their skin becoming increasingly pitted and leathery in their last few years of life.
Kroot are tall and their bodies have a wiriness to them that appears deceptively fragile. In actuality, Kroot musculature is extremely powerful and composed of dense fiber spindles with a greater power‑to‑mass ratio than is found in Humans. Swift muscle contractions create a whiplash effect, allowing the Kroot to deliver powerful blows with great rapidity.
On the ground, the Kroot tend to move with a bounding, hopping gait, but in dense forests, they can spring from tree to tree at great speed. The Kroot favour primitive garb: harnesses worked from the hides of animals and adorned with bones, handcrafted amulets and circlets.
The limited specimens that have been made available for study by Imperial savants and the Magos Biologis of the Adeptus Mechanicus have possessed brains composed of a front and rear hemisphere. It appears that the larger, frontal hemisphere controls the functions of logic, reasoning and memory while the rear, less developed hemisphere is more attuned to imagination and creativity.
If this is indeed the case, it would go some way to explaining the pragmatic approach to life of the Kroot and their current technological stagnation.
The Kroot head is crowned with a great mass of tough, flexible quills that appear to be a part of the Kroot's sensory apparatus. These quills contain what seem to be ganglia running from the frontal lobes of the alien's brain and, in this position, would be extremely efficient at receiving and interpreting information on the surrounding environment.
The olfactory cavity within the Kroot skull is also enlarged, with multiple sense organs within both it and the mouth. Their eyes are without pupils and generally a milky white.
It is likely that they are able to see further into the infrared end of the spectrum and can sense the body heat generated by their prey. Therefore, the Kroot make excellent trackers and would be extremely difficult to sneak up on.
The Kroot generate little in the way of waste, as their bodies excrete metabolic waste in the form of a pungent, oily sweat that has a variety of properties, depending on what the Kroot has consumed.
The most apparent benefits are that this sweat appears to be heat-retardant to a degree, has antibiotic properties and can cause a poorly-aimed blow to slide clear. It is suspected that the Kroot can alter the properties of this secretion in order to leave pheromone trails, mark territories, provide warnings to their fellow Kroot and even communicate with one another through scent.
This may also be some form of biochemical control that extends to lower life forms such as other avians and animals, as there is evidence to suggest that the Kroot employ empathic pheromones to prevent such creatures from being startled by them and giving away their position in battle.
Combined with this method of communication, the Kroot can learn new languages at an astounding rate, matching posture and tone to the sound of foreign words in order to discern their meaning. Their own verbal communication is a mixture of clicks and whistles, possibly reinforced by these pheromone excretions.
War in the Place of Union
At the close of the T'au's First Sphere Expansion, an exploration fleet out of Dal'yth picked up long-ranged scans of Ork warships firing on Kroot Warspheres. The previously unencountered Kroot were defending their enclave on the planet of Krath, although they were hopelessly outnumbered.
Quickly deploying their superior fleet, the T'au destroyed the ramshackle Greenskin ships. Too late, however, they realised that this was merely the vanguard of a mighty invasion force that was closing on them in an encircling pattern.
Thus began an extended war, both in space and over several planets, later named the War in the Place of Union, for it marked the first time the T'au and Kroot fought side by side. So effective was the sudden alliance that they withstood the Orks long enough for reinforcements from Sa'cea to arrive, and ultimately triumphed over the Greenskins.
The T'au were so impressed with the Kroot's fighting prowess, they agreed to extend the alliance in order to liberate the remainder of the Kroot enclaves, who were also under Ork attack. For the next ten Terran years, the T'au helped drive all sign of Orks from the Kroot worlds, eventually coming to their homeworld of Pech at the behest of the greatest of Kroot leaders, the legendary Anghkor Prok.
There, at the sacred Oathstone, the Kroot leader swore allegiance to the T'au Empire and pledged his warriors to fight for the Greater Good (and regular payment). That pledge, and the cooperation between the two species, is still honoured today. The Kroot are, by far, the most common alien auxiliary force to serve in T'au armies.
The T'au greatly value the military service of the Kroot, although they continue to hope that exposure to their own superior culture will eventually cure the Kroot of their cannibalistic tendencies.
First Contact with the Imperium
The Kroots' first encounter with the Imperium of Man came during the Damocles Gulf Crusade on the world of Sy'l'Kell. Troops of the Astra Militarum's 17th Brimlock Dragoons were in transit to the front lines from their landing zone when they were ambushed by Kroot kindreds.
The column's forward scouts were eliminated by Kroot Carnivores before they could get a warning off to the regiment following behind. As the main body of the Brimlock 17th pushed through a narrow forested defile, the Kroot fell on them. Three Kroot kindred were involved in the attack. The surprise was complete and scores of Imperial Guardsmen were killed in the opening moments of the ambush.
Colonel Konstantin Griffin and Commissar Eigerman quickly recovered and held the Imperial line long enough to fight clear of the Kroot's trap. From then on the column was continually harried by the Kroot, until Colonel Griffin linked up with the Space Marines of the Scythes of the Emperor Chapter.
With the arrival of the more powerful Astartes forces, the Kroot realised that they were overmatched and withdrew to seek easier targets for their guerilla tactics elsewhere.
Outwardly, the Kroot seem to be a simple pre-industrial society, incapable of achieving powered flight, much less traveling through space. However, T'au observers on Pech have noted evidence that may point to an industrial base hidden on or even inside some of the planet's mountains.
This may be explained by the Kroot feasting on Orks, gaining the Greenskins' innate ability to construct advanced technology despite a lack of knowledge by using genetic memory. It's probable that the Kroot deliberately keep their general level of technology used from day-to-day low, using their most advanced technology only for weapons and interstellar travel, in order to keep their species strong through physical hardship.
The Kroot's primary weapon is a rifle with a design derived from the fighting staffs used by their ancestors. Originally a slug-thrower, the weapon was modified by the T'au to fire a charged particle similar to their own Pulse Rifles. However, these "Kroot Rifles" are in fact used mainly in close combat, and to this end are fitted with blades on the stock and the end of the barrel.
The Kroot also employ the Kroot Gun -- too big and unwieldy for one Kroot to handle -- mounted on the back of Krootox. Another rifle the Kroot have is the Kroot Hunting Rifle which is more of a sniper rifle than the standard Kroot rifle.
In addition to the Kroot Rifle that the T'au helped the Kroot construct, the Kroot themselves have other weapons that they have gathered while serving as mercenaries for other intelligent species or that they have scavenged from the battlefield.
These weapons include Splinter Pistols, Bolt Pistols, Sluggas, Shuriken Pistols, Power Weapons, and various close combat weapons as well as their two-handed cousins like the Splinter Rifle, Storm Bolter, Shoota, Shuriken Catapult, Flamer, Plasma Gun, and Melta Gun.
Perhaps the Kroot's most defining trait as a species is that they can alter their own biological evolution by genetically absorbing the traits and characteristics of other species, a process accomplished by eating their flesh. Due to this ability, the many Kroot warbands scattered across the galaxy often look radically different from one another, and can possess different abilities.
Kroot leaders are known as Shapers; they are generally the Kroot with the instinctive ability to recognise desirable or detrimental biological traits in defeated foes and instruct their kindred in what to eat to suit the so that they might evolve themselves to better deal with the environment they currently find themselves in.
For example, a Shaper who wants their Kroot to gain muscle mass will seek out conflicts with Orks to acquire Ork genetic material geared towards physical size, while extensive feeding on flying predators will allow the Shaper's Kroot to grow wings.
This eating of their foes ties in with the religious beliefs of the Kroot: they believe that when a warrior of any species dies, his warrior spirit should be kept, and the only way to do this is by eating his flesh. The Kroot practice this in their funereal customs, in which the body of the deceased is consumed by the kindred.
Kroot who prey extensively on a particular species will begin to take on the characteristics of that creature. In sentient species such as Orks and Humans, they may also take on cultural aspects of that people as well.
The Kroot digestive system is extremely efficient, capable of breaking down almost any organic material into an energy form that can be stored in specialised organs scattered throughout their bodies, called nymnes. Should anything inorganic and indigestible be consumed, the Kroot must regurgitate it, with considerable discomfort.
However, the strangest quirk of Kroot digestion is their ability to extract potentially useful strands of their food's DNA. Adeptus Mechanicus Genetors have long been aware that much of the double helix structure of DNA is used to structurally separate those regions of the genome that do contain usable genetic information. The Kroot have somehow inherited the ability to incorporate useful DNA sequences from other species into their own genetic makeup.
The process is not an exact science and there are many examples where it has gone awry, leaving some trapped in evolutionary cul-de-sacs, the existence of the Krootox and Kroot Hounds being the most visible evidence of this problem. At some point in their evolutionary history, both of these sub‑species of Kroot fed upon creatures that were possessed of traits they wished to take on, but, in doing so, atrophied their intelligence.
The Krootox are now much larger and stronger, but became lumbering creatures, more akin to forest-dwelling herbivores than their smaller, more intelligent kin. The Kroot Hounds became faster and leaner but, like the Krootox, their intelligence was reduced, becoming little more than vicious predators. The genetic baseline Kroot use these variants of themselves as labourers, pack animals, mounts, and even as weapons, especially the gargantuan Great Knarloc.
Deep within the forests of Pech, there exist beasts that were once Kroot, but have since descended hideous evolutionary paths to become monsters that feed on their own kind. Such places are considered cursed in Kroot culture and only the bravest or most foolhardy Kroot ever venture within their haunted depths.
Kroot are unable to effectively shape the necrodermis living metal of the Necrons, and doing so produces hideous effects as was demonstrated on the Kroot world of Caroch in 976.M41 when a Nanoscarab plague swept through the Kroot ranks, bursting from the bodies of those who had ingested the Necron bodies.
There are at least three species which the Kroot have been forbidden to eat by their Shapers. These include:
- Tyranids - The Shapers have declared all Tyranid bioforms to be inedible (being declared inedible is as much a moral designation as a gastronomic one in Kroot culture), and because the Shapers are inherently repulsed by the Tyranid's particular way of changing their genetic makeup.
- Humans who worship Chaos.
- The T'au. The Kroot respect the T'au due to their role in saving the Kroot's homeworld of Pech from the Orks. As a result, consuming T'au flesh has been made a crime in Kroot society that brings swift and deadly retribution from the Shapers to any who violate the proscription.
The Kroot Shapers are the military and spiritual leaders of the Kroot as well as those blessed with the ability to shift through other species' genetic material to determine which possess potentially beneficial traits.
Shapers try to ensure the Kroot inherit only good genetic traits and strive to ensure that their kindred does not reach an evolutionary dead-end.
Kroot Carnivores are the basic infantry for the Kroot. Carnivores have the ability to absorb characteristic traits from the food or remains of any enemy they consume. It has been reported that Kroot Carnivores can become tainted by Chaos by eating the flesh of those serve the Ruinous Powers.
Kroot Hounds are an example of Kroot that have reached an evolutionary dead-end. These Kroot have evolved into a quadrupedal, canine-like Kroot with only the barest glimmer of sentience.
Like the Kroot Hound, the Krootox is an evolutionary dead end. The Krootox is an ape-like Kroot usually used to carry heavy burdens because of its immense strength.
It has been noted by T'au on Pech that angry Krootox are something to be avoided. Krootox have a Kroot Gun mounted on their back which will lend some much needed heavy firepower to attached squads.
Great Knarlocs are similar in appearance to Krootox, except much bigger and faster, resembling nothing so much as a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Great Knarlocs are very difficult to control, and are goaded into combat by trained Kroot handlers. If their handlers are killed, Great Knarlocs may turn on their allies, even on other Kroot.
Knarlocs are the smaller relatives of the Great Knarloc, trained by the Kroot. They are smaller in size and work more as a team, unlike larger, solitary relations.
In the wild jungles of Pech, Knarlocs are formidable carnivorous predators using ambush and long distance pursuit techniques to run their prey into the ground. They work together in groups of up to ten, including their young, and have developed a significantly greater brain to body ratio, allowing them to attack any size of prey native to their world.
The Kroot are known to capture and raise Knarloc young to form elite mounted units. They mainly make use of their razor claws, sharp beaks and powerful leg muscles to rip apart their prey.
The Kroot riding them carry Kroot Rifles to fire from advantageous positions that the Knarloc can deliver the Kroot to. It is also seen as a social statement to be riding a Knarloc.
The term "Knarloc" actually covers a wide variety of creatures, all exhibiting similar anatomical characteristics and habits. Some, for example, are broad and muscular and lack the clawed forearms that others display, while some are tall and lean. All of these varieties are highly prized by the Kroot.
- Codex: Necrons (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), "A New Epoch Begins"
- Codex: Tau (3rd Edition), pg. 29
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 12, 49
- Codex: Tau Empire (7th Edition), "Alien Auxiliaries", pg. 35
- Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium (Omnibus Novel), "For the Emperor" (Novel) by Sandy Mitchell, Chs. 3, 12
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign, pp. 73, 221-222
- Primary Instinct (Short Story) by Sarah Cawkwell
- Xenology (Background Book), pp. 49-50
- The Art of Warhammer 40,000 (Art Book), pg. 216
- Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos (RPG), pp. 14-16, 19-20
- Only War: Enemies of the Imperium (RPG), pg. 100
- White Dwarf 263 (US), "Index Xenos: The Kroot"